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Summarizing the telecom technology trends for 2023 – An ER&D perspective

In recent years, India has emerged as one of the largest consumers of mobile data in the world. With over 695 million active mobile internet users (as of 2021), the country ranks ahead of the US, and has registered a phenomenal 320-percent growth over the last five years.

As 5G services are rolled out across its metros and towns, India’s demand for faster and more reliable data connectivity, therefore, looks set to continue its robust growth trajectory.

What this means is that the nation’s telecommunications industry will witness major changes over the next few years. With 5G becoming prevalent, and even predominant, telecom engineering services providers will play a key role in unlocking new opportunities across the telecom value chain. This would involve a redefinition of existing engagements with communication service providers (CSPs), networking and technology system companies, OEMs, and chip and software vendors. Engineering Research and Development (ER&D) firms will also play a key role as the go-to partners for the much-needed extensive test-bed infrastructure and as the storehouse of technology expertise in driving the emerging frontiers of next-gen connectivity.

Let us look at the five top trends that we believe will gain traction in 2023 for the telecom sector.

5G will help boost the expansion of the Internet of Things (IoT)
The Government of India is pushing the envelope on Make in India, with its emphasis on developing the country as a global manufacturing hub. 5G and IoT will be an important enabler here. In this direction, we are likely to witness a focused and collaborative effort to build a scalable 5G infrastructure that is easily accessible across the length and breadth of the country.

A leading research and rating body predicts that by 2023, there will be 43 billion IoT-connected devices worldwide, and 5G will foster the adoption and use of IoT-based applications. With the increased adoption of 5G services, transformative changes will be evident across sectors like education, healthcare (especially telehealth and online consulting), and agriculture. 5G will also have the potential to enhance and redefine opportunities across the augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) applications landscape as its market penetration increases.

Disruptive technologies, 5G rollouts, personal data protection legislation, and investment incentives are boosting India’s data market. Increasing digitization is helping optimize costs, driving enterprises resilience and robust operational paradigms in a rapidly evolving global business scenario. We will also witness considerable growth of network design, planning, implementation, network management systems (NMS), and network operating centers in 2023 and beyond. These in turn will support end-to-end network connectivity and public safety projects in metros and state capitals like Mumbai, Bengaluru, Gandhinagar, Nagpur, and Lucknow.

Connected networks are increasingly under the threat of cybercrimes. In an era of rapid proliferation of connected handheld devices – routers, security cameras, and automobiles – a lack of safety protocols is an invite for hackers.

Businesses today, therefore, must be equipped with improved cybersecurity measures to drive consumer trust and faith.

If current trends are an indicator, we will witness the rise of zero-trust architectures, capable of addressing cyber threats at multiple levels. This would involve a mature and comprehensive approach to 5G cybersecurity, with an emphasis on standards and cloud technologies that can provide foundational cybersecurity.

Leveraging 5G-enabled offerings from engineering services companies, cybersecurity protocols would, therefore, be increasingly embedded within the product itself – ensuring speed, reliability, and trust. As more smart cities and smart factories across the country are connected, the capabilities unlocked by the 5G revolution would continue to help deliver a strengthened framework for driving the next frontiers of business success.

Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning transformations with 5G connectivity
The impact of artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML) on telecom operations is witnessed across several use cases, including deciphering telecom data like detecting glitches and frauds, predicting churn, and supporting root cause analysis. In other words, leveraging the full potential of AI/ML techniques can help in enhanced real-time analysis of client sentiment, track keywords, and offer new age services like conversational AI and chatbots.

We expect in the near term to witness advancements in AI/ML driving new efficiencies for 5G-based systems with connected devices and platforms, driving deeper developments across the AI-based learning and inference ecosystem. Telecom operators will also be able to improve service performance and provide more features to customers with AI/ML-based service automation. Automation and AI in telecom would strengthen client connections by relating substantiated requirements and improving network capabilities. With the rise of OTT services in India, AI would also be key in driving recommendations based on consumer behavior, improving the overall quality of user experience.

AI/ML can, therefore, redefine how we live and work by removing potential limitations to the adoption of modern technologies in the future.

Evolving telco cloud strategies – Data center operations
Service providers globally are leveraging the cloud more as it helps in enabling workload portability and providing more operational consistency among hybrid cloud and multi-cloud environments. The growing telecom cloud market is valued at USD 21.93 billion and is expected to witness a growth of 19.9 percent by 2025. A range of factors like higher bandwidth availability, lower latency, reduced infrastructure costs, and lower deployment time requirements will be the key factors in this direction.

India is witnessing a growing adoption of on-prem cloud services, both for reasons related to data security as well as application-latency needs. This trend creates significant new opportunities for ER&D companies to provide data center operation support services.

Automation will unlock a plethora of possibilities
With every passing year, we will be witnessing a growing number of global telecom companies deploying 5G networks and leveraging Enterprise private networks. The need to efficiently manage these network slices, as well as the overall requirement to improve the efficiency of network operations and improve customer experience, will bring in more automation via the use of the orchestration layer and AI/ML. This continued focus on automation will enable ease of deployment for cloud-native network functions and new services, while driving streamlined monetization and operational paradigms.

The Indian telecom industry is at an inflection point, and leveraging 5G-powered solutions will enable record-high connectivity speeds to drive innovation across industries. We will also see a strengthening of the momentum around blockchains and virtual reality, especially against the backdrop of the evolving metaverse and its allied technology ecosystem.

Looking ahead, with increased digitization as the motive power of the new normal, we will see telecom operators in the country adopting redesigned applications and solutions to remain competitive. As the scenario evolves, telecom service providers will need to improve the quality of service (QoS), and invest in a more robust network infrastructure, delivering new customer experience and unlocking new revenue opportunities in the process.

The future would indeed belong to those bold enough to navigate the connected landscape of tomorrow.

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